Mike and I have given up meat for January.
I know, I know. But my goals are a) to learn some new vegetarian recipes, to ultimately effect a less meat-heavy diet for the sake of the environment and b) to shed enough Christmas poundage to fit into something – anything – that doesn’t have an elasticated waistband.
My sister, full-time vegan, took the opportunity to finally get someone to go with her to Fed By Water, an ‘authentic’ vegan Italian restaurant. I had declined previous invitations on the grounds that a) ‘Fed By Water’ is the worst name for a restaurant since Scoff & Banter opened its doors and b) I wasn’t sure how much of an overlap there is between ‘authentic Italian’ and vegan cuisine. Also its logo has a wanky ‘TM’ symbol after it.
That said, I was eager to be impressed. It’s easy to mock their terrible restaurant names and affinity for man buns, but when it comes to the future of Planet Earth the vegans are generally doing much more than we cow-munchers. I really wanted it to be good.
We went with our two housemates, and the five of us emerged with mixed feelings. James 1 and I felt we’d be sufficiently sustained, whereas the others’ reviews ranged from ‘unsatisfied’ to ‘shit’.
The starters were nice but boring. I cannot fathom how a restaurant boasting ‘plant-based, authentic Italian food’ can fail to put bruschetta, the only genuinely authentic vegan Italian food I can think of, top of the menu. Or even bottom on the menu. Anywhere, in fact, on the bloody menu, would have been nice. Instead there’s olives, rosemary and garlic potatoes, hummus (???), broccoli with garlic and chilli and three kinds of garlic bread. Hold my beer while I dig out everyone’s favourite Miranda Priestley meme.
Most of us had a pizza for our main course, and I was disappointed by how much meat substitute was on the menu. Where were the herbs and spices, the creatively applied veg? I didn’t schelp over to Dalston to spend £15 on synthesised protein. One of the things I love most about The Gate, a vegetarian restaurant that also happens to be one of my favourite places to eat in London, is its tireless dedication to seasonal produce and all the incredible things that can be done with it. Eating there is like visiting an edible art gallery showcasing nature’s bounty. So why was I eating a pizza topped with seitan and potato?
I will admit that the house-made vegan cheese, which was available in several different varieties, was very good. (Providing, of course, that you don’t compare it to real cheese.)
The unimaginative menu could have been forgiven had the service been good, or even competent. Despite a platoon of waiting staff and a dining room barely big enough to swing a cat-shaped non-sentient thing around, we were more or less ignored. Eventually, over an hour after taking our seats and close to walking out in search of a kebab, we watched as our starters were delivered to another table, whose freshly-sat occupants immediately dug in. A child bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Augustus Gloop in the 1971 adaptation of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory managed to shove two whole pieces of unsolicited garlic bread into his gaping maw before the waitress realised her mistake. This would have been fine had a) we not been on the verge of starving to death and b) the waitress not immediately tried to redeliver the half-eaten food to our table.
In fairness, when we flagged our concerns we were told that it was the restaurant’s first day open after Christmas due to some sort of power failure, and that two of the wait staff were brand new, which sort of explained (but didn’t excuse) the second-hand Augustus Gloop garlic bread fandango.
Overall, Fed By Water didn’t feel like a celebration of non-animal, plant-based foods, but the last resort of someone who has decided they don’t have any other choice. Fortunately for the full-timers, there’s plenty of other vegan places in London to go. And me? We’re going to The Gate on Friday.
Fed By Water, 64 Kingsland High St, London E8 2LX
Header image credit: Well-Travelled Vegan
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.